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Tony Williams Lifetime - Emergency ! CD (album) cover

EMERGENCY !

Tony Williams Lifetime

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.74 | 26 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars A good argument could be made that Jazz Rock Fusion began right here, when ace drummer Tony Williams, the backbone of the so-called Second Great Miles Davis Quintet, enlisted Larry Young and John McLaughlin for a plugged-in jazz power trio, charged with genuine power. The embryonic crossover was still discernibly jazz, configured around an unusual instrumental line-up of drums, guitar, and organ (no bass, no horns). But it was jazz played loud and electrified, with an abrasive edge unusual even in rock albums of the same era.

How rough is the recording? The entire twin-LP, with over 70-minutes of music, was finished in just two days, and sounds like it. The production isn't far removed from a crudely bootlegged live concert, but the raw vitality of the music itself can't be ignored...nor, unfortunately, can the awful '60s poetry, heard in "Beyond Games" and elsewhere ("You know everything is said...in the bed / And it shouldn't change...just 'cause you're wed!")

Concentrate instead on the white-hot performances surrounding those occasional spoken word digressions. The controlled fury of Williams' drumming would exert an undeniable influence on a generation of young rock percussionists (Michael Giles, Bill Bruford, etc.) The texture of Larry Young's electric organ is the aural equivalent of extra-coarse sandpaper. And no fan of John McLaughlin can afford to miss this set, which includes some of his most incendiary playing on record, approaching an almost Post-Punk level of abstraction in tracks like "Sangria For Three".

Maybe the emergency of the album's title was the inevitable crisis in the middle-1960's that saw a cross-fertilization of musical styles, with rockers looking to jazz for permission to break the rules, and fearless jazzers like Williams and Miles Davis drawn to the power and popularity of Rock 'n' Roll. Davis would of course take the hybrid style to a whole new level, but the epiphany of "Bitches Brew" would have been stillborn without the midwife of this album in attendance (after hearing it, Davis tried unsuccessfully to hire the Lifetime trio as his backing band). The song "Via the Spectrum Road" in particular functions as an unofficial prologue to the groovy Brew title "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down".

The album is primitive, no doubt. But it was fusions like this that eventually blossomed into the glorious Hydra called Progressive Rock, where no musical boundary was safe.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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